Enterprise data centers almost always require a temperature monitoring system. In fact, the ideal computer room monitoring system almost always includes several temperature sensors as well as at least one humidity monitor. It’s been known for years that electronics operate at optimum performance when they can be kept relatively cool and at constant environmental conditions. Why is this?
Heat Causes Thermal Stress
Think about the purpose of grease surrounding the ball bearings in a wheel. The value is in the lubrication which also prevents friction which leads to heat - which leads to wear and tear. Heat causes things to expand and helps break things down. Consider washing white cloths in cold vs. warm water: obviously warmer water will get your cloths a bit cleaner but, will wear them out sooner as well. While heat is both good and bad, when it comes to electronics, it can decrease the service life of many commonly used computer assets.
In electronics, the DC current used creates heat which ultimately leads to something called metal migration . When DC current is running through the circuitry, metal atoms are bombarded more from one side than from the other. This causes the movement of metal atoms which is referred to as metal migration. Sufficient movement in the metal can result in gaps or open circuits appearing in metal and subsequent circuit failure. Any slight defects or grain boundaries can make the problem worse. As the temperature increases, the process of metal migration also increases.
Fear the Dendrites!
If excessive moisture is introduced to higher temperatures, dendrites can form. In the presence of moisture and an electric field, metal ions can migrate to a cathodically (negatively) charged surface and plate out, forming dendrites. The dendrites can grow and eventually bridge the gap between the contacts, causing an electric short and possibly arcing. This can lead to failure. Can anyone smell smoke?
As circuits become smaller, dendrites become a more serious issue. Manufactures are taking steps to seal circuits to prevent dendrites however, a good humidity and temperature monitoring system can help maintain proper environmental conditions.
Fluctuating Temperatures cause Fatigue
Temperatures that move up and down are also bad for electronics because when temperatures fluctuate, device interconnections and other components can fatigue from expansion and contraction. These thermal stresses can eventually lead to failure. To make matters worse, higher temperatures also increase the electrical resistance of the conducting lines within computer circuits, slowing the signal speed which leads to a reduction in performance. As devices become more complex, conducting paths become longer and this performance reduction is more significant.
Computer Room Monitoring
If you want to prolong the life of electronic systems, a good temperature monitoring system is just the beginning. We’ve already seen how humidity can play a destructive role in shorting the life of electronics. In order to ensure the longest return in our electronic investments that reside in the computer room, several other monitors should be put in place for conditions such as smoke, water and lack of air flow. Many systems can also provide surveillance cameras, power monitoring and notification systems. Make sure your next temperature monitoring system keeps the big picture in mind.
Steve Parker is Solutions Engineer for Ravica which provides cost-efficient and functional secure access accessories as well as environmental monitoring appliances such as intelligent sensors for mission critical facilities.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi